Technology of Distance

In this Sunday’s sermon, our pastor was pontificating on the sense of emotional distance and isolation that afflicts modern man. He mentioned Mother Teresa’s quote: “The greatest disease is not TB or leprosy, but the feeling of being uncared for, unwanted, deserted by everyone. The greatest disease is the lack of love.” He went on to cite modern communications advances, polling the congregation to find out how many present had cell phones, pagers, friends in other countries they kept in contact with, etc. “And even with all of these amazing communication tools, we still often find ourselves alone and lonely,” he concluded.

That got me to thinking about the benefits of these tools. Though they certainly do allow us to keep up with more people than we otherwise could, my gut instinct is that they actually contribute to the problem of loneliness. In the same way that a hunk of butter is spread progressively thinner as you split it across more pieces of bread, I suspect our attention and capacity for meaningful relationship is strained further the more people we add into our lives. Though it may be my inner introvert talking, I suspect that relationships become richer, and loneliness less of a problem, when one’s social circle has some limits. Further, I suspect that tools that make it easy to keep up with 100 people also contribute to not really knowing those people in anything more than a superficial way.

I certainly find my Real Life friendships richer than my online friendships, as a rule. In fact, I can only think of a couple people that I’ve met on the Internet and not had in-person interaction with that I would really call friends. I’m curious to know whether others have had the same feeling of searching the earth for like-minded people, and ending up back home.